Tag Archive: Hulisani Khorombi


hulisanik

I would like to think that I am good at putting my thoughts onto paper (virtual or not) but sometimes I come off as ignorant or unaware of something because the thought process that made me think or say something just wasn’t explained properly. So when the topic of transformation came up I was weary to even try to say anything about it.

If you have been following the discussion there have been some really great pieces on transformation and wow! Some people have hit it right on the mark. As a whole I feel as though my opinion may be a combination of ideas that I have read mixed in with my outlook on life based on my experiences. But here goes anyway…

Transformation.

Honestly, if you had asked me five years ago I would have said something like, “we are on the right track”, “what is the problem?” “racism, nope that is a thing of the past”, “white privilege? What is that?”

5 years is a lot of time to change a lot of thinking processes though and so as it stands today I can say that I disagree with everything that I had thought about transformation in South Africa. I was living in a very sheltered life where the world’s problems could be solved if you had an education and some sort of drive to do something with your life. However, things are not as simple as that. Simply expecting someone who is the first in their family to attend school and then suddenly become the next Barack Obama is an anomaly, not the norm.

I think that the biggest problem is that transformation seeks to quietly bring us together while Apartheid was not quiet about separating us. There aren’t laws that force us to get to know someone of the opposite race or even of a different culture for that fact. I’m not saying that, that would be a solution. What I am trying to say is that there was this huge thing that happened that affected everyone and for the most part a large number of people got together to fix it. Together. But now we are trying to ‘fix’ things individually and no longer as a country. We no longer have the drive to do something together as a country.

Remember 2010? How it felt to be South African? It felt awesome! I could even go out on a limb here and say that the togetherness we experienced then was a glimpse of what transformation should be like. We were actively teaching each other things, like how to blow a vuvuzela or even where the best place is to get food before a match.

Sadly, the World Cup came and went. We fell back into our habitual lifestyles that held no diversity.

I am 24 which means that I was born towards the end of the regime that separated a country. I went to a private school with a large white population and for most of my life my best and closest friends have always been white. Having said that I feel grossly incompetent and unqualified to say that there needs to be a change. I mean come on. I fall into the middle class category in a country where a large amount of its citizens fall below the bread line.  I don’t know the struggle and to even try to act as if I do would be insulting to a person who does know what it is like to go to bed hungry again, for a third night in a row.

So from my middle class view I will tell you how I wish transformation would happen from my own experiences.

Firstly, could we just acknowledge that we are different? I used to think that when a person said to me that they don’t even regard me as black that it was a compliment. That they saw me as a human before they saw me as a black human. I don’t think that, that approach works. Being black is something that is inherently me. You cannot miss the colour of someone’s skin. What is happening is that a person is in effect saying, “yup, you are a certain colour BUT because you act like me, speak like me or even dress like me I can overlook your colour and we can form some sort of relationship”. That doesn’t sit well with me anymore.

We have to acknowledge that we are different because our differences are what will bring us together. If you think that what I’m saying is impossible then let me explain.

I don’t know about you but I love learning new things. I can bet you that at some point you have gotten lost in the YouTube loop and that is because humans love getting new information (even if it is useless to you as you will never build a boat. Yet, you still watched 10 minutes of that video right?).

Learning new things is exciting, challenging and brings out a new side to you that you may never had known existed. Having a friend of a different culture, ethnicity or even gender and never learning from them is such a bore.

Here is where the whole thing about how our differences can bring us together which will be my second point.

Let’s start learning from each other. Not only on a one on one basis but on a mass scale. Having one friend who isn’t ‘like’ you really does not count as that is not a representation of the wider scope of people.

I know that there are cultural and religious barriers which sometimes seem like the end of the world. I have had Hindu, Muslim, Portuguse, Afrikaans and even an Athiest friend or two. Each experience taught me something that I will always treasure. Because I love learning new things…

With this new found keenness for learning from each other we also need to be willing to understand that past injustices do not go away overnight.

This is my third and last point. Let us all be aware and mindful of each other.  Not every white person owns a ten bedroom house with 6 cars just like not every black person is living on the street. But the reality is that the general trend leans towards the effect of white privilege. (Brett has some awesome pieces on that and please do yourself a favour and read them, because I can’t begin to put it as well as some people do).

I feel as though I have oversimplified a very complex situation. That was not my intention. This is merely an expression of how I feel on the matter in less than 1000 words. Transformation does not happen overnight.

So I will keep on hoping for a better future because we are not quite there yet. (But we will get there, of that I am sure)

[For other thoughts on First Steps towards a reconciled and transformed country, click here]

[For more thoughts and stories on the broader theme of Race-relatedness, click here]

hulisanik

 

Where on earth do I even start with this topic? “What I want my white friends to know” seems like such a direct attack to some of my closest friends and those who I am still to meet. I absolutely love my friends so how could I write this? Then I thought about how much I really want to say some things and I sat down to type this.

First of all I come from a lovely family. Two parents. Two kids. My brother and I are so different that you would think that we were not related. I am also a devoted friend and will try and move mountains to help a person that I care for.

There is just one issue that absolutely tortures me.

I am constantly called a coconut. For those who don’t know what that means it refers to being white on the inside even though the person’s skin is black.

That word is the most hurtful thing that at some point all of my friends have said to me. Some people don’t realise how much it bothers me and I scarcely say it out loud. When I do people brush it off and ask how many books I have read this week alone. (Three on average if you were wondering)

I mean, how is it that it’s okay for any other person to love reading, public speaking and just overall enjoy the English language but as soon as a black person does it they get labelled? I’m not white. I’m black. Every time you insinuate otherwise it hurts because with that one word you have discredited my whole heritage and culture.

With this whole coconut thing also comes the term that I don’t like which is “you speak soooo well”. What? I speak soooo well? As opposed to who? Another black person or just another person in general? Do you praise another person as much if they successfully master the English language?

I get it that each individual person does not mean harm but after a lifetime of these two things it gets frustrating.

When I go back to visit my grandmothers I am perfectly capable of cooking over a fire, speaking my mother tongue and helping pick fruits while it is 42 degrees Celsius with not a single cloud in the sky.

Is it so wrong for me to live between two cultures and not get called names about it?

There is this automatic assumption when you are called a coconut that you know nothing about your culture. I can’t say that I know everything about my culture but that is out of choice for not wanting to practice certain aspects because I am Christian.

This whole piece seems very accusing to a specific race but it isn’t meant to be. I get called a coconut by my black friends too. I remember one time in specific where I was walking into the office and there was a new person around. My friends both black and white stopped me from coming in. They then told me to talk to them as I stood outside for a while. I thought that was weird but did it anyway. When I walked in after about 5 minutes of conversation it was to the shock that they had asked the new person inside to guess if I was black or white. When the person guessed that I was white I was so ashamed of myself? And worse than that I was just overall embarrassed.

After nearly a week of beating myself up about being too white and convincing myself that I was black enough I got over. At what point is it okay to judge me because I embrace a culture?

So what I want my white friends to know (and black) is that coconut is not a nice word. I have never and will never like it.

[For the next post by Siki Dlanga focusing on the concept of ‘the better black’, click here]

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